Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Yoga for People Diagnosed with Psychaitric Illness

Last year I had the honor to teach yoga to a beautiful group of people diagnosed with Schizophrenia. The group of people would meet weekly with their ACT (Assertive Community Treatment) team therapist. At first I was hesitant because I had little experience working with people suffering with mental illnesses, and more experience working adult or kids yoga, and with children who may be diagnosed with special needs. The therapist who is also a yoga teacher in training assured me that I would be great, and the owner of Bamboomoves was kind enough to offer the space at the studio for this amazing experience to take place. This experience truly changed my life.

While the Therapist provided me with literature about the mental illnesses in question, and assured me that he would be present in case I needed a back up assistant, I really had no idea I would be in for an experience of a lifetime. We had our first meeting, and the group enjoyed some gentle yoga. We did pranayama, hip opening stretches, back stretches, and balance postures. The sincere commentary from the group made the class so fun! While many people in the group have little family support, and have a truly sad situation in life, it was so awesome to witness how the yoga practice made them feel happy, peace, joy and one person even felt "turned on", I guess the experience awakened his "Swadhistana Chakra"! People in this awesome group expressed how their body felt good after the yoga, they felt like they could breathe better, the noticed how special yoga made them feel, and they truly supported each other in the class! This experience as an instructor was more than awesome! I am so grateful to have spent weeks with these awesome people, and witness how powerful the yoga practice really is. When I would hear how excited they were each week about their weekly yoga, it truly brightened my day! I am so happy to see how many places around the US are noticing the importance of providing a Yoga practice to people who unfortunately are overlooked in society.

 In DC, they are looking into teaching yoga to juvenile delinquents to inspire a sense of calm in the youth with a new department of youth rehabilitation services program. A dear friend of mine here in NYC, is teaching Yoga to battered pregnant women. I was also contacted to offer Yoga to people in the NYC prison system, which I would be honored to do! After my experience with the group in the ACT team, I am excited to share the yoga practice with more and more people who society tends to overlook. In the west Yoga is often times a means of fitness, and sometimes ego driven by focusing on mastering the asana (yoga pose), which if that is what makes you feel bliss, as an instructor I am happy to facilitate, but experience with the ACT team reinforced the power of the mind-body-spirit connection that yoga is truly about. This awesome group inspired me to respect how amazing the yoga practice truly is. Thank you Bamboomoves for providing a space, and to the Therapist and Jacobi Medical ACT team for inviting me to be part of this amazing experience for your patients. While we took pictures of the group doing some amazing yoga poses, to respect their privacy I will not be publishing the pictures in my blog.

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